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A Tale of Two Years

December 10, 2015

Marquette (7-2-0) vs Wisconsin (6-4-0)
12:30 p.m. Saturday, December 12
Kohl Center | Madison, WI
Radio: 540 ESPN


It is once again the second Saturday in December, which means it’s time for Marquette to face-off against in-state rival Wisconsin. This year the Golden Eagles will be traveling west to face the Badgers for the 122nd meeting between the schools. The Badgers lead the series 66-55 and have won the last two including the fairly ugly 38-49 affair last year in Milwaukee. See the Win Probability Chart below.



Enough of the history. Most of you that read our posts already knew most of that. But for those new to the rivalry, there you are: table is set.

Let’s take a look at the two programs and where they were last year. Marquette was 4-4, had a brand new coach, no player available that was taller than 6’-7” and two players that were about to transfer out of the program. It was the prelude to one of the tougher seasons Marquette fans have had to endure in some time.

60 miles down I-94, Wisconsin’s program looked a bit different. They were 8-1, had an experience-laden team that included two future first round draft picks, ranked second in the country and were beginning a season that would finish in the finals of the NCAA tournament, and some sour grapes.

Looking at how each team performed relative to the competition they had faced illustrates the disparity between the two teams all too well. For example, Marquette had been averaging 8.5 more points per 100 possessions on offense than what their opponents had been allowing. Wisconsin, on the other hand, had been averaging 19.4 more points per 100 possessions than what their opponents had been allowing. On the defensive side, Marquette had been allowing 0.1 fewer points per 100 possessions, while Wisconsin had been allowing 14.7 fewer points per 100 possessions. In other words, Wisconsin had been dominant on both offense and defense, while Marquette had been above average on offense and pedestrian on defense. The rest of the opponent-adjusted offensive and defensive metrics can be seen in the tables below.


Margin (+/-) Opp Season-To-Date Average (2014 - 2015 Season - Offense)

Points Per 100 Possessions8.519.4
Assists Per Possession2.9%6.6%
Effective Field Goal %3.4%9.1%
Turnovers Per Possession-5.1%-6.5%
Offensive Rebounding %-3.2%1.6%
Free Throw Rate-8.3%-9.3%



Margin (+/-) Opp Season-To-Date Avg (2014 - 2015 Season - Defense)

Points Per 100 Possessions Allowed-0.1-14.7
Steals Per Possession3.8%0.0%
Blocks Per Possession1.0%5.6%
Opponent Effective Field Goal %3.9%-3.6%
Opponent Turnovers Per Possession2.2%-0.6%
Defensive Rebounding %-2.8%9.2%
Opponent Free Throw Rate-13.1%-21.9%


Why did we take the time to point out how great Wisconsin was and how so-so Marquette was last year? So we could illustrate the difference a year can make.

Let’s take a look at how the programs look so far this year. Marquette is 7-2, has a McDonald’s All-American, three eligible players 6’-10” or taller, four talented freshmen and an Olympic-caliber high jumper (for what that’s worth). Here’s proof.

Wisconsin is currently 6-4, and just lost to a different in-state rival in UW-Milwaukee for the first time in 22 games. They lost 65.7% of their scoring from last year, 70.1% of their blocks, 63.8% of their steals and are using a relatively young lineup compared to what Bo is used to having on the floor. That said, Wisconsin is still a talented team, but looking at the numbers shows there have been some considerable drop-offs.

On the offensive side of things, Marquette is actually performing slightly worse than last year when looking at points per 100 possessions, but their assists per possession and effective field goal percentage have improved considerably. The Badgers, while still performing well, are nowhere near the levels they were at last year. The only metric where they have improved is offensive rebounding percentage. They are currently rebounding the offensive glass at a rate 6.5% better than what their opponents have been allowing. Last year they were only 1.6% better.


Margin (+/-) Opp Season-To-Date Avg - Offense

Points Per 100 Possessions4.48.57.719.4
Assists Per Possession11.3%2.9%-5.1%6.6%
Effective Field Goal %4.6%3.4%-0.4%9.1%
Turnovers Per Possession-0.8%-5.1%-4.9%-6.5%
Offensive Rebounding %-1.9%-3.2%7.1%1.6%
Free Throw Rate-12.8%-8.3%-7.4%-9.3%


Defense is where Marquette’s improvement really stands out. The Golden Eagles are currently allowing 5.9 fewer points per 100 possessions, blocking at a rate 7.2% higher than what their opponents typically give up, opponents are shooting at an effective field goal percentage 4.1% lower than their season-to-date average. Wisconsin, while still playing well, has seen all their opponent-adjusted metrics perform worse relative to last year.


Margin (+/-) Opp Season-To-Date Avg - Defense

Points Per 100 Possessions Allowed-5.9-0.1-2.5-14.7
Steals Per Possession2.3%3.8%-2.9%0.0%
Blocks Per Possession7.2%1.0%2.9%5.6%
Opponent Effective Field Goal %-4.1%3.9%-0.9%-3.6%
Opponent Turnovers Per Possesion-1.8%2.2%-3.5%-0.6%
Defensive Rebounding %-1.3%-2.8%5.4%9.2%
Opponent Free Throw Rate-16.6%-13.1%-10.7%-21.9%


Ok, so we can see that Marquette’s team has improved from their abysmal season last year and Wisconsin has, understandably, taken a step back from the remarkable season they experienced last year. What does that mean for this year’s game? The table below shows, based on opponent-weighted offensive and defensive metrics, which school has the edge on paper by metric.

Wisconsin appears to have the edge in overall offense with their strength coming on the offensive glass, rebounding at a rate 9.1% higher than Marquette. Marquette, however, appears to distribute the ball better and shoots more efficiently as a result.


Who Has The Edge - Offense

Points Per 100 PossessionsWisconsin3.2
Assists Per PossessionMarquette16.4%
Effective Field Goal %Marquette5.0%
Turnovers Per PossessionWisconsin-4.1%
Offensive Rebounding %Wisconsin9.1%
Free Throw RateWisconsin5.4%


Defensively, Marquette would seem to have the edge as their numbers are better than Wisconsin’s in most categories, though the Badgers do appear to have the edge on the defensive glass. Looking at the numbers, this game will come down to Wisconsin’s ability to rebound vs. Marquette’s ability to defend and move the ball around enough to get open looks.


Who Has The Edge - Defense

Points Per 100 Possessions AllowedMarquette-3.4
Steals Per PossessionMarquette5.1%
Blocks Per PossessionMarquette4.3%
Opponent Effective Field Goal %Marquette3.2%
Opponent Turnovers Per PossessionMarquette1.6%
Defensive Rebounding %Wisconsin6.7%
Opponent Free Throw RateMarquette-5.9%


The key players for the Badgers will be Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and stud redshirt freshman Ethan Happ. Combined they account for 60.5% of Wisconsin’s points, 51.1% of its rebounds, 65.0% of its assists and 44.4% of its blocks. If any of these players have an off-night or get into foul trouble, it will put the Badgers at a significant disadvantage.

For Marquette, Henry Ellenson, Luke Fischer and Traci Carter will be important as always, but more important will be the play of Hannif Cheatham, Duane Wilson, Jujuan Johnson and Sandy Cohen III. The Golden Eagles will need to get solid outside shooting from the four guards to open up the inside for Luke and Henry, as well as crash the boards to keep an outstanding rebounding Badger team from getting second-chance opportunities.

This should be an exciting game. Both teams need the win. Wisconsin needs it to bounce back from a tough loss and jumpstart their season. Marquette needs it in order to continue to build confidence in their very young team. Plus, this is a rivalry game and both would like bragging rights for the next year. As such, we anticipate this being a close one, as the last 10 contests have been decided by an average of 7.4 points per game.

According to our simulator, Marquette has a 41.6% chance of winning in Madison with an average margin of loss of 2.1 points.


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